I have so much work to do at the moment I really shouldn’t be blogging, but this is just too good not to share.
The post and videos speak for themselves – they contain a subtle but devastatingly effective songwriting rule:
Preserve the natural shape of the language
Watch the videos and see ! (Watch all of them, they’re great.)
But now comes the bit that made me laugh out loud and want to write this post. When you watch the video above, do you notice anything about the sound ? (Aside from what a great voice that girl has?!)
If you do, maybe you can guess where I’m going with this. If not, listen again.
What happens at 5’18” ?
There are two ways to answer this, both of which are correct. First version:
The engineer turns off the teacher’s mic
That doesn’t tell us much – so what ? Well the answer is the second version:
The sound suddenly sucks
OK, let me clarify that. If you’re like me when you first started watching these videos, you probably thought – “that sounds a bit roomy, and boomy, and boxy – she’s way off-mic, I wish they’d use more of the close sound.”
And then you get distracted by the lessons in song-writing, and somewhere along the line you think to yourself “wow, she has a great voice”, and before you know it you’re watching the fourth video and suddenly you hit 5’18” and BAM !
Suddenly it sounds terrible.
Thin, and dry, and weak, and clinical, and exposed, and just – terrible !
And that’s because the teacher’s mic has gone, and all the room sound it was adding goes with it. The guitar sound, in particular, falls apart. All those things you thought were problems when you first started listening – well, maybe they weren’t so bad after all.
Then, interestingly enough, the engineer notices, and brings a little of that “room” mic back in towards the end.
Now don’t get me wrong, that’s not the greatest voice and guitar sound in the world, and I’m not saying we should all make boomy, boxy, off-mic recordings ! With a little reverb, and some EQ and maybe a different mic placement, the dry sound on that recording could be made to sound much better.
But on the other hand, a really nice blend of the room sound would probably sound even better still ! The room tone blends everything together, it adds a lovely warm resonance to the bottom end of the guitar, it sounds real and natural.
OK, it’s not the best-sounding room in the world, but even so it has a lot going for it. But we often spend our whole time trying to get rid of all that stuff in our recordings !
And if you listen again to some of your favourite classic tracks from the 60s, 70s and 80s, you’ll find that many (most) of them are full of quirky, interesting, real, great-sounding room-tones.
So, here’s my hidden, off-topic take-away message from the above video:
Preserve the natural sound of the recording environment
By all means close-mic, by all means use screens and DIs and overdubs. But at the same time, always take some time to actually be in the room with the musicians, listening to what they hear, and finding what’s good about it – and try and bring some of that into the recording too.
Put up a few room mics, and get some real space into your mix !